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Gentrification transforming face of Oakland.
"The housing market conditions are completely out of control, with no real accountability to the people who are being displaced," said Robbie Clark of Causa Justa. “These stark rent increases, people being forced to move far away and commute longer — these are not signs of healthy communities.
The Causa Justa report emphasized that government and the public need to do more to keep low-income people in their homes so they can enjoy the benefits of gentrification without being displaced. Stricter rent control and anti-foreclosure laws, more affordable housing and greater public input in planning decisions would help, the report said.
"It’s true, I’m beginning to see white people in (deep East Oakland). … The only reason it hasn’t happened sooner is because we have six shootings a day around here," she said. "The question is not whether this change is good or bad. It’s how do we find a balance, and how do we start the conversation?”
read more:  sfgate, 09.04.14.
» Oakland Mayor Quan unveiling her own 10,000-resident plan

"Oakland Mayor Jean Quan said Wednesday that she wants to attract 10,000 new residents to the city and build some 7,500 housing units to capitalize on the region’s hot housing market. 

Previewing her Thursday evening State of the City speech, Quan said she will announce her 10K Two plan, a proposal similar to former Mayor Jerry Brown's successful and popular 10K blueprint that brought 10,000 residents to Uptown and downtown Oakland.

The 10,000 residents who arrived under Brown’s plan are often credited with fueling the city’s restaurant and bar boom. Now Quan said it is her turn to attract another 10,000 residents.

"Jerry’s 10K was mostly focused in (Uptown and downtown)," Quan said. "We’re all over the city. The funding will also be along the transit corridors."

Quan, who is facing a tough re-election battle this year, said the city has to act quickly to encourage investment and approve construction projects while young families and singles are still fleeing San Francisco and other expensive areas for the comparatively low rents of Oakland.”

"Many longtime Oakland residents are worried that city officials might be so eager to attract new, wealthy residents that the community will lose its diverse, gritty character and become a playground for the rich and young, a complaint often voiced about San Francisco.

Fruitvale residents are already feeling the squeeze of high rents and housing prices, Najera said. Oakland saw rents and home costs rise faster than many other cities in the country last year.

Most landlords can now comfortably demand a high credit score and annual wages three times the rent and still find plenty of tenants.

"It is getting harder and harder every day for regular Oaklanders to be able to rent," Najera said, adding that many longtime residents are moving to Richmond, Stockton and other areas, often far-flung."

sfgate, 06.03.14.

increasing supply of market rate housing should keep lower-priced housing costs low, theoretically…

Undersupply of Walkable Neighborhoods

"A California survey found that, although 86% of respondents prefer single-family homes, 47% prefer a walkable, mixed use neighborhood; 49% would choose a smaller house if it provided a shorter commute; and 31% would choose a high-density neighborhood if it had convenient public transit (PPIC 2002).

A survey of Houston, Texas residents (Blueprint Houston 2003) asked, “Would you personally prefer to live in a suburban setting with larger lots and houses and a longer drive to work and most other places, or in a more central urban setting with smaller homes on smaller lots, and be able to take transit or walk to work and other places?” Fifty-five percent of respondents chose the “Central urban setting” and only 37% chose the “Suburban setting.”

The Atlanta, Georgia SMARTRAQ study found that only about 5% of homes in the region are in compact and walkable neighborhoods, and only 40% of respondents indicated that they could walk to any nearby shops and services. Yet, 20% to 40% of respondents expressed a very strong preference for the most compact and walkable neighborhoods (depending on which attributes were considered), 49% prefer a neighborhood where residents can walk to nearby shopping, and 55% prefer a community with smaller lots if it offers shorter commutes. About a third of metro Atlantans living in automobile-dependent, suburban locations indicate they would prefer a more walkable environment but traded it off for attributes such as affordability, school quality, or perception of crime. This suggests a significant undersupply of accessible, walkable neighborhoods.”

from Socially Optimal Transport Prices and Markets: Principles, Strategies and Impacts

26 July 2012 By Todd Litman, Victoria Transport Policy Institute. [PDF]

read if you’re interested in the economics of transportation; the market failure/distortion/inefficiencies of the current system. 

» 5 urban planning challenges for downtown Oakland

Frank Ogawa Plaza aka Oscar Grant Plaza in Downtown Oakland

Citing Broadway Auto Row, which was redesigned 15 years ago and is about to undergo another facelift, Pattillo noted, “The city makes an investment in a public improvement, but they don’t maintain it. Within very short order, shockingly short order, they have to rip it out and do it again.”

___

…Taecker also stressed the need to build diversity into downtown housing development. “I think that’s a necessary corollary to building more housing downtown: it needs to be housing for all kinds of people. That’s what will give it vitality. It’s also what puts in place various stakeholders who will advocate for the downtown and for nicer urban environments downtown,” he said. “The upper-income housing can actually be the vehicle for building more low-income housing.”

“Oakland is still in a position where the powers that be remember an Oakland that was really struggling in the 70s and 80s, when we saw all that disinvestment in Oakland,” said Joel Ramos, regional planning director for TransForm. He noted that Oakland had tried and failed six years ago to pass an inclusionary housing ordinance that would have levied a fee on developers of market rate units to help fund affordable housing. “There was this concern that Oakland needs to do whatever it can to attract investment.”

oaklandlocal, 11.02.14.

» An ugly duckling turns back into Swan’s in Old Oakland

In February of 1995, Swan’s Market, the former home of a low-cost department store that occupied the block of Old Oakland bounded by 9th, 10th, Clay and Washington Streets was a blank, boarded-up block. Only the terra cotta medallions decorating the walls and the iconic Swan’s sign were visible. Many of the surrounding blocks were empty lots.

Yet Joshua Simon, a senior project manager for the East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation (EBALDC), chose to take Ruth Silber there on their first date. He had a vision for the property he wanted to share. “We were going to create a place that was affordable where small businesses could grow and thrive,” Simon said. “Our idea was to have 4th Street for the rest of us.”

It was five more years before the vision Simon shared with his future wife became a reality. EBALDC believed that, if Swan’s was to be the anchor for a vibrant neighborhood, it needed to include diverse elements, so it included affordable and market-rate housing, plus office and retail space. Financing and building the complex project took time.

When the Housewives Market’s original building closed in 1999, Raymond Gee, owner of Taylor’s Sausage, became one of the first retail tenants in the new incarnation of Housewives in Swan’s. He said it took some time for people to come back to the neighborhood, but he sees many reasons to be optimistic: “Now people walk their dogs. People walk around at night.”

read more: oaklandlocal, 24.01.13.

» It Doesn’t Have To Be This Way

really good article about the tech industry in the sf bay area, going beyond news and elaborating too much about the regional housing/planning problem to offer new ideas of how the tech sector and communities can interact, outside of blocked employee buses.

excerpts in case it’s tl;dr for you—now not as long:

  • example of service as part of company culture:

Zendesk, a San Francisco-based IPO candidate that was originally founded in Denmark, is running the “gold standard” of community benefit programs in the Tenderloin.

“Other startups do all this stuff to build a culture. They bring in ping pong tables. They have happy hours,” Tiffany Apczynski of Zendesk said. “But what we do to differentiate ourselves is our social responsibility. We want to avoid an Ivory Tower syndrome.”

Del Seymour, a former drug addict who now sits on the city’s Homeless Coordinating Board, gives tours to new Zendesk employees, so they can understand the history of the neighborhood they’re working in.

Seymour takes Zendesk employees to places like St. Anthony’s and the Gubbio Project, where hundreds of homeless people get to rest every day in the pews of the Tenderloin’s St. Boniface Church. He points out where he used to sleep in an old refrigerator bin during his six years on the streets, when he fell into drug abuse after working as a paramedic and firefighter for the city.

“I never thought I would end up there,” he told a crowd of Zendesk employees in front of St. Boniface’s doors.

  • broader-based giving from employees across the industry:

In October, the founders, investors and employees of Helsinki-based gaming startup Supercell sold slightly over half of the company for $1.5 billion to Japanese mobile carrier Softbank and GungHo.

Around that time, the city’s local children’s hospital reached out to the company, because they hadn’t yet raised enough funding to replace their old, dilapidated location. The 100 or so employees stepped up to collectively give about 3.4 million euros ($4.6 million) to cover a budget shortfall for constructing a new hospital. Participation was voluntary and the total amount raised was less than 1 percent of the proceeds from that deal.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen employees of any tech company in San Francisco or Silicon Valley collectively donate a sum of that size. In fact, a friend of mine, who spent at least four years at Facebook, tried to rally his former co-workers to do something similar around the time the company IPO-ed. No such luck, which is an incredible shame.

  • leadership from google, facebook, apple and twitter on regional housing:

Frankly, it’s a waste for Google to spend its time media coaching employees at a hearing for $1 fees on bus stops, when it could be joining forces with Facebook, Apple, Twitter and other large tech companies to push for regionwide housing solutions.

Surely, if Apple, Facebook and Google can drop a few billion dollars and commission architects like Norman Foster and Frank Gehry to thoughtfully design their future headquarters, they can think intelligently about how to house all of the employees who will commute to work there. This may mean becoming more organized about confronting NIMBYists who are inadvertently denying others affordable housing in favor of preserving their own property values.

full article: techcrunch, 24.01.14.

one thing, though: companies can get a payroll tax break if their community benefit programs are approved. they should still be paying their fair share of taxes. they’re not thanks to current laws (and ed lee’s tax breaks to get tech companies like twitter to move to sf).

» Sometimes you’re the restaurant worker; sometimes you’re the hipster

"A comedian recently joked that he didn’t want so much gentrification, just enough so that he could get creme brulee. The challenge of gentrification is that at first it looks pretty awesome.”

oaklandlocal: Thoughts on gentrification, 21.01.14.

» Where Are We at with Ellis Act Evictions (and How Did We Get Here?)

"In the late 1970s, the city of Santa Monica enacted local legislation to help protect rent-controlled properties and specifically to protect low- and moderate-income tenants from eviction. Then came Jerome Nash, a young landlord whose mother had bought him a building when he was 17. Finding the business of owning a building unsuitable a few years later, he hoped to tear down the building (which of course meant evicting his tenants), but was denied a permit because of the city’s recent housing protections. Nash challenged the decision in court and succeeded, but lost on appeal in the state Supreme Court (Nash v. City of Santa Monica in 1984).

Luckily for him, he had a buddy in state government, Republican Senator Jim Ellis from San Diego. Ellis introduced and subsequently passed an act essentially intended just for Nash to get out of his particular predicament. The gist of this new California law allowed landowners to get out of the business of being a landlord and get out from under public protections for housing (such as Santa Monica’s rent control law)….

Jeremy Mykaels is the lone tenant in his Castro building apartment, where he has lived for the past 18 years. As a disabled senior, he was allowed a full year’s notice to vacate the premises following an Ellis eviction, as opposed to the normal 120-day period. His year ended, but he challenged the procedural process of the eviction. His case was dismissed upon the discovery that his landlord had incorrectly stated the amount of rent Mykaels was paying. Since then, the owner has yet to attempt to Ellis him out of the building again.

In a recent email, Mykaels had the following advice for tenants willing to dig their heels in and stay put: Get a good lawyer who will scrutinize the Ellis filing (as he did), connect with a tenants counseling group (like the Tenants Union or the Housing Rights Committee), and ­– perhaps the most difficult one – make your eviction account public. “It was not easy for me to have to publicly divulge the fact that I am a gay senior living with AIDS who was being evicted under the Ellis Act in order for the media to take notice of my story,” he says. But they did take notice and that may well have contributed to the fact that he’s still living in San Francisco.

Mykaels acknowledges that it’s not feasible for every single tenant to stay and fight in the way that he did, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t something to be gained by ruffling some feathers on the way out.”

read more: thebolditalic, 13.01.14.

No-Fault Evictions in San Francisco, 1997 to 2013.
Anti-Eviction Mapping Project.
» How the Cost of Other People's Parking Drives Up Your Rent

from the executive summary from the report by Jesse London and Clark Williams-Derry:

An analysis of 23 recently completed Seattle-area multifamily housing developments reveals that the practice of providing abundant “cheap” parking actually makes rental housing more expensive—particularly for tenants with modest incomes and who don’t own cars. This analysis shows that:

  • ‹‹Seattle-area apartment developers build far more parking than their tenants need. Across all developments in our sample, 37 percent of parking spots remained empty during the night, the time of peak demand for residential parking. Every development had nighttime parking vacancies, and four developments had more than twice as many parking spots as parked cars.
  • ‹‹Many tenants don’t own cars. On average, the developments in our sample had 20 percent more occupied apartments than occupied parking spaces—a rock- bottom estimate for the share of apartments whose tenants don’t park on-site. In all, 21 of the 23 developments had more occupied apartments than parked cars.
  • ‹‹Multifamily developments lose money on parking. No development in our sample was able to recover enough parking fees to recover the full estimated costs of building, operating, and maintaining on-site parking facilities.
  • ‹‹Car-free tenants still pay for parking. Landlords’ losses on parking—calculated as the difference between total parking costs and total parking fees collected from tenants—add up to roughly 15 percent of monthly rents in our sample, or $246 per month for each occupied apartment. Because landlords typically recoup these losses through apartment rents, all tenants—even those who don’t own cars—pay a substantial hidden fee for parking as part of their monthly rents. 

via atlanticcities, 13.12.13.

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